Arts Fest: A Penn State Tradition

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Penn State News.
The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Penn State News.

Come celebrate the arts and connect with the Penn State community July 10 through 14!

The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, fondly known as Arts Festival, is one of the highlights of summer in Happy Valley. Now in its 47th year, Arts Festival serves as an unofficial reunion weekend for Penn State alumni. Held in downtown State College and on the Penn State University Park campus, the festival celebrates the arts with its nationally recognized Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition, gallery exhibition, sand sculpture, and music, dance, and theatrical performances.

Arts Festival began in 1967, and was sponsored by Penn State’s College of Arts and Architecture and the State College Chamber of Commerce. The exhibitions consisted of artists hanging their art on a snow fence and musical performances that took place on campus and downtown. All of the things that make Arts Festival special continue to carry on today: music, dance, theater, art, craft, food, film, and fun!

Participation is encouraged in various events throughout the week. Some of the most popular activities include:

  • Children and Youth Day: Support the creativity among the youth! This day features performances for and by young people, craft workshops for children, and a sidewalk sale made up entirely of youth artwork.
  • Sidewalk Sale: The Sidewalk Sale boasts some of the nation’s best artists and craftspeople. There are a number of items for sale including baskets, ceramics, jewelry, fiber, painting, photography, and wearable art.
  • Banner Competition: One of the signature events of Arts Festival. The winning banners line the streets of downtown State College adding an extra splash of life and color to the air.
  • Italian Street Painting: Watch Hiester Street transform from a blank canvas to a giant work of art, as select artists use pastels to decorate the alley. You too can add your touch of art to the festival. Interested participants are given a space on the street to create their own masterpiece!
  • Live performances: there are a number of performances that take place throughout the week. From live bands to dance and theatrical shows—make sure to take a moment to soak up the artistry.
  • 10 mile, 10K, 5K, and Kids Fun run: Get those running shoes on! The Arts Festival races are the oldest and most storied in Central Pennsylvania.
  • Food Vendors: cool down with an ice-cold lemonade or indulge in some festival kettle corn. The variety of food vendors on every corner are a favorite at Arts Festival.

If you’re planning a summer trip to the University Park campus, Arts Festival is a great time to stop by! Check out our Visiting Penn State page for information on lodging in the area.